Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Commentary: Sotir: Where to Now?

Education has traditionally been an almost passive pursuit. The usually didactic instructional methodologies have most often been geared to an "I teach, you learn" philosophy. While technology in education can certainly support that direction, it is increasingly moving towards being more dynamic, interactive and more social. The change factor lies in the children who are driving the new direction.
My grandson is a newly-minted second grader, but his comfort level, and that of most of his peers, leans towards technology as a core component, not an enhancement. He enjoys a board game of Life or Scrabble, but is connected to electronics in a way we as adults can barely understand. I watched him as he played on my computer. Without a blink, he deftly searched for the subjects that interest him. For example, he has an interest in US presidents, fueled by the upcoming election. When he wanted to know more about a particular president, he instinctively knew which search words to use. When a search did not produce the information he wanted, he scanned the disappointing results and found new and more effective search words to try. I showed him some basic Boolean search tools, which he immediately incorporated. Later, when searching for a particular Pokemon character, I saw him apply those same tools as if he had always known them.
The power of the Internet propels children into a learning style that is unique and foreign to those of us who have been learners for much longer, but we need to develop that same core competency. Teens develop their social networks using tools such as MySpace or texting. Interactivity is a given, as is multi-tasking. We need to develop strategies that enhance the core components that the kids do instantly and without conscious thought or decision. Lifelong learning just got kicked up a notch.